Publishing a Podcast

This isn’t about equipment or recording technique, but just the cranky details of publishing a podcast that I have found by trial and error.

If you use nothing else from this article, please: add cover art to your mp3 files. Without it, your episodes show up with blank covers in iPods and most mp3 players! Your podcast will look dorky without it! It’s not enough to add cover art to your itunes feed, you need to embed the cover art in every finished mp3 file. This is easy to do yet everyone forgets to do it.

This approach assumes you have some kind of blog already and allows you to publish your podcast right alongside your other posts, as I do here – in other words, no need to set up a totally separate site for your podcast if you don’t want to. The code examples are specific to Textpattern but can be easily adapted to any other CMS.

  1. Create a separate category for your podcast posts on your blog. Even if your blog is pretty much exclusively a podcast, you may want to publish text-only posts now and then for administrative purposes, and this will give you the freedom to keep those separate if you like.
  2. Create a 600×600px cover art image for your podcast and upload it to your site. (In some places Apple says 300px is OK but their technical spec says 600.) I recommend using JPEG, not PNG – the latter is allowed but will look blocky when viewed at reduced sizes in iTunes.
  3. Get a FeedBurner account and set up your podcast feed:
    1. Set the “original feed” on FeedBurner to Textpattern’s atom feed for that category (e.g., http://foopaux.com/atom/?category=podcastery). You can use RSS but Atom is better.
    2. Under FeedBurner’s Optimize tab, add the SmartCast service to make your feed podcast-friendly. Set the cover art to the URL of your covert art image and add as much description, keywords and categories as you can muster.
  4. Create a subscribe link on your website. Lots of folks use iTunes, so it’s nice to provide an iTunes instant-subscribe link for them and a standard RSS link for everyone else. To create an iTunes link, just prefix the URL of your FeedBurner feed with itpc:// instead of http://. So, for example, you could place this prominently on your website:
    Subscribe in "iTunes":itpc://feeds.feedburner.com/MyPodcast or "RSS":http://feeds.feedburner.com/MyPodcast
  5. If you want people to be able to stream and play your episodes right from the website, install the jnm:audio textpattern plugin.
  6. Record and upload your episodes. I use Audacity to record, then upload the MP3 to my website using FTP. If you don’t have any hosted space, you can use a free Dropbox account and host your files in a public folder. The bonus with this approach is that uploading is automatic.
  7. Format your posts properly:
    1. Don’t forget to set the post’s category to the podcast category you created earlier.
    2. Each podcast post should contain a direct link to the MP3 file for that episode. This is non-optional, and will allow FeedBurner to correctly detect and include your audio in the podcast feed.
    3. Again, if you want to embed a flash player in your post so people can stream the audio from right there, include a <txp:jnm_audio> tag (referred to above) in your post. This is optional.
    4. One nice thing to do if you will be syndicating onto another service, such as Facebook notes etc., is to create a special CSS class called for-syndicate and set it to display: none. Then add a little “helper” boilerplate on the bottom of each post, in a paragraph set to that class:
      p(for-syndicate). This is a podcast post: "click here":http://site.com/episode.mp3 to download the MP3 audio, or visit "site.com":http://site.com/podcast to listen online and subscribe in iTunes.
      The for-syndicate class will render the paragraph invisible on your website, but it will be visible when imported into Facebook or when the feed is viewed in a newsreader, since these other sites do not import your CSS styles. (If you like, this quasi-hidden paragraph can also serve as the required MP3 link.)
  8. After you’ve gotten your production groove down and can demonstrate that your episodes come out at least somewhat regularly, it’s worth trying to get your podcast added into the iTunes store. Read Apple’s FAQ for Podcast Makers.
  9. Regarding cover art: even if you have FeedBurner properly pointed at your cover art image, you’ll find that iTunes does not automatically use your cover art for downloaded episodes – iTunes will use the cover art automatically in your iTunes store listing, if you get one, but, for some silly reason, will not show it for episodes downloaded into your library. To fix this, you actually need to embed the cover art into each episode’s MP3 file. Here’s how to do it just using iTunes:
    1. Prior to uploading, open add the episode’s MP3 to your iTunes library.
    2. Right-click the episode in iTunes, click Get Info.
    3. Go to the Artwork tab, manually add your cover art to the file, and click OK.
    4. Now upload your MP3 file.